Williamsport pitching coach Lance Carter wouldn't go as far as to say Lino Martinez has passed the test of the New York-Penn League just yet.
There's a lot that could happen over the course of the final 18 games of the season before Carter is ready to do that. But ...
"I think he's done a good job," Carter said before batting practice Thursday at Bowman Field, one night after Martinez allowed one run in six innings of work.
Martinez's stock has clearly grown throughout the season into that of a top-30, and maybe even top-20, prospect in the Philadelphia Phillies' minor league system. The 18-year old left-hander has been turning heads throughout the year as he consistently continues to pitch well for the Crosscutters.
He leads the team with six wins and also leads in innings pitched. His 42 strikeouts are second only to Austin Wright, who was promoted to Lakewood earlier this season.
Martinez is also the youngest player on a team that plays in a league dominated by former college baseball players. Players in this league are more polished than they were when Carter played in the the rookie leagues. But that's why there's excitement around Martinez.
He's not only competing, but succeeding in a league that is advanced for an 18-year old. And in an organization that has been short on left-handed pitching in the minor leagues in recent years, he's just the type of player the Phillies are looking for to make some noise as he advances.
"He's a lot more mature than most 18-year olds," Carter said. "But he still has a lot of growing and learning that needs to take place. He's done a great job this season. His command of the fastball at times has been very good. He's done a good job for someone who is 18 years old. It's nice to see his progression."
Martinez isn't going to blow you away with his stuff. He's got a fastball that'll touch 90 on occassion - although at 18 he might have room too add on a few miles per hour - with a good complementary change-up. His breaking ball is sort of like a slider-curveball hybrid, with a bit of a sweeping action, but a bite that will fall off the table.
But what makes him an intriguing prospect is his pitchability, a relatively new term scouts and coaches use to describe a pitcher's ability to understand how to pitch and not just throw. Martinez works with a gameplan he doesn't often vary from.
It's not a very complex gameplan, and in fact is a gameplan that would work for any pitcher: Move the ball in and out and up and down, change speeds, and throw a breaking ball for strikes. The first plan involves the location of his fastball and sets up everything else he wants to do.
"He uses between his ears as good as anybody I've been around," Carter said. "He has pitchability and knows what he wants to do on the mound."
His biggest problem throughout the course of the season has been when he tries to strike out his opponents. He's a pitcher that needs to pitch to contact and let his defense work behind him. When he gets into modes where he's trying to strike out opponents, he begins to nibble on the corners with his fastball.
That leads to walks and hitters' counts where they can tee off his fastball that sits in the high 80s.
"That's one of the things we continue to harp on him, is let's see how quickly we can get balls put in play," Carter said. "When he does that, he pitches ahead in the count and it makes his change-up and breaking ball that much better, and it's making his fastball play that much higher because he's going after hitters instead of trying to avoid the bats."
Going into Thursday's game against Tri-City, Carter definitely likes what he's seen so far out of Martinez this year. But he knows there's still a couple more tests the left-hander needs to pass before calling it a successful season. The Cutters were just one game out of the Pinckney Division lead going into last night's game.
"Hopefully we'll get in the playoffs and it'll test him in that situation," Carter said. "But so far, so good. There's been a lot of growth for Lino this year. Hopefully he continues to grow and get better as he gets older."
DUGAN DONE: Kelly Dugan announced on his Twitter page yesterday that he is out for the remainder of the season after suffering a stress fracture in his back. Dugan was pulled from the first game of the Staten Island series last week at Bowman Field after going 0 for 2 with a pair of groundouts. Crosscutters manager Mickey Morandini said at the time Dugan's back was bothering him, especially when he would swing and miss.
Dugan "Played the last 2 weeks with a stress fracture. Is out for the remainder of the season...." according to his Twitter page. He is fifth on the team with a .284 batting average, and at the time of his injury was the most dangerous hitter in the Cutters' lineup. The 2009 second-round pick played just 19 games with Williamsport last season after suffering a staph infection in his leg.
Pete Lavin, who was called up when Maikel Franco was promoted to Lakewood, has filled in well in right field, hitting .304 with 2 home runs, and 5 RBIs since being recalled from the GCL. The Cutters have also added Geancarlo Mendez from Lakewood. He'll likely see time at designated hitter and first base for Williamsport.